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    It was over.

 

    The world felt like nothing but pain.  Pain, blood, cold and darkness, but beneath each of these a grim sense of triumph.  It was finally over and the soldiers of Ohu could rest and breathe once again. Of course, that meant the rush of battle, the heat of fighting had worn off, and he could feel each bleeding wound he had sustained with renewed stinging.

 

    Tired...he was so tired.  If he just laid down right now, rather than take another step, it would be so easy to rest, to just sleep until the pain had numbed.  But the sound of a voice, a familiar and beloved voice calling his name over the rushing wind, spurred Ben back into motion. His bones ached and creaked with every step and his vision blurred so often that he was forced to rely on his ears and nose more than he cared to admit, but the great dane followed the sound of the voice, remembering what he had in his life to keep living for.

 

    “Ben!”

 

    Some of the world came back into focus, and he sped up, bolstered by Cross calling his name and his renewed sight.  The closer he drew, the more he caught the other sounds, the gentle crying, the piercing, short howls and the playful squeaks.  They were innocent sounds, unmarred by any true comprehension of the danger that had prowled these mountains up until moments ago, of the violent bloodshed that Ohu had witnessed in their battle against Akakabuto’s stronghold.  Tears blurred Ben’s vision all over again; the sounds of his pups as they waited with their mother were so fragile and precious beyond what he could put to words, and as he limped the last stretch to reunite with Cross and their children, he stored up each of those whimpers, yelps, howls and cries in his heart to treasure them.  A father...he was a father, with pups of his own, a dream he had never considered and one he felt inexplicably blessed to know had come true for him and for Cross.

 

    This wasn’t the only thing he had been fighting for, but it was without doubt the greatest reason he had been willing to give up his life in order to eliminate the demon bears.  His family would always be worth fighting for.